This article is expanded from material that first appeared on Blog 2. Its main purpose is to show photographs of headstones for people connected with the history covered in this blog. I have received permission from all the necessary contributors on the Find a Grave site to reproduce their work here. So my grateful thanks go to Sherry, Doug, Shiver, MrsJB, JennO, Duane, blt, Neil, Chris, Mojo, Joann, Kathie and Beverley. In some cases the pictures used here are alternatives to those currently found on the site, simply because I didn’t need permission to use my own photographs.
This means that you can probably assume it is OK to copy these pictures for non-commercial use if you so choose. However, I would always recommend going back to the original source on Find a Grave as some pages contain further information on the individuals. And this is not static – new material is being added all the time to this resource. What wasn’t there for me to discover today could just be there for you to discover tomorrow.
In addition, it is worth noting that there are a number of individuals connected with Watch Tower history who do not have headstones, but nonetheless have pages devoted to them on the Find a Grave site. For example, John Corbin Sunderlin has an entry, but there is no photograph of a headstone on the page (as yet). Nonetheless, you CAN find headstones along with biographical information for both his father and his son. However, in this article, apart from a couple of paragraphs on the Staten Island Cemetery where no grave markers exist as a matter of policy (see below), these have not been covered. This article is, after all, about pictures. But I recommend that you still type in your name of choice and check.
Before we actually get to the pictures, perhaps I can illustrate the value of this resource with one current example. In researching Henry Weber for a recent article, a letter was found in ZWT from 1901 written by Edna Mary Hammond which stated that her introduction to Bible Student publications was through her brother’s Sunday school teacher. This was Henry Weber. Edna is very specific; she was 10 years old at the time. Find a Grave finds – not just Henry Weber, but also Edna Mary. We know from her entry that she was born in 1873 and also where she was born. Do the math and we know that Henry was already circulating CTR’s publications in 1883. We also know from Edna’s entry and the surrounding family entries that her sister died as a Jehovah’s Witness. So we have the right name, the right family, the right place and right religious connections. All of this to give us an earlier date than previously known for Henry Weber’s Watch Tower connections.
The Russell family
Charles Taze Russell
Front row - markers for CTR's father, mother, and three siblings
Back row - markers for Uncle Charles, Uncle James, and Aunt Sarah
Father - Joseph L Russell
The in-laws - Mahlon and Selena Ackley
The wife - Maria F Russell
The sister-in-law and step-mother - Emma H Russell
Before the Watch Tower
(No grave marker known, but this is his death certificate)
Some of those who went their own way
Ernest C Henninges
(wife Rose Ball is buried here too but the headstone was never updated)
As previous articles on this blog have detailed, the Society had its own burial ground at the Rosemont United Cemeteries in Ross Township, Pittsburgh. Here CTR and a few Bethel family members and Pilgrims were buried, and their names inscribed on a pyramid monument. For biographical details of all these individuals please see articles on this blog Who Are Those Guys? Parts 1 and 2 from September 2014.
However, shortly after the headquarters moved from Pittsburgh to Brooklyn for the second time in 1919, this cemetery was to all intents and purposes abandoned. It was only several decades later that the remaining graves were sold off. See article A Short History of United Cemeteries, also from September 2014.
It made more sense to have a cemetery for Bethel family workers in New York where they were now headquartered. To replace the Pittsburgh plot, a new cemetery was created on Staten Island, New York. In 1922 the Society bought 24 acres of land in Woodrow Road, Staten Island. The area is sometimes known as Rossville and also Huguenot Park. The purpose was to build their own radio station WBBR which started broadcasting in early 1924. There was also some farming done on the land, in what was then very much a rural area.
A new graveyard was established nearby in the same street, alongside an historic landmark, the Woodrow United Methodist Church. The website NYC AM Radio History when discussing station WBBR made the statement:
Judge Rutherford died in 1942 and was buried at Rossville in a Methodist cemetery within sight of the WBBR towers.
This small burial plot was used until at least the late 1960s. There are various references to this cemetery in the Society’s literature when the death of someone well-known from their headquarters staff was announced. For example, the Awake for February 22, 1952 page 26 recounts the funeral of Clayton J Woodworth, along with two other Bethel workers in a triple interment. The article reads (in part):
On Staten Island in New York City the Watchtower Society maintains a place of burial for members of the headquarters staff known as the Bethel family. How appropriate it is that the remains of these men who labored together during their lifetime, Rutherford, Van Amburgh, Martin and Woodworth, should be buried there together!
These four had all been imprisoned together way back in 1918.
The Woodrow Road graveyard was accessible to the general public. It was obviously the policy to have no grave markers. It is reported that today you can recognise the area belonging to the Society simply because it is the only section in the cemetery without headstones.
In the 1960s the Society purchased two properties at Wallkill, Ulster County, about 100 miles north of Brooklyn, NY, totalling a reported 1200 hectares (around 3000 acres). These became known as Watchtower Farms, and extensive printing operations were transferred to this area from the early 1970s onwards. A new graveyard was created on this property that is known as the Watchtower Farms Cemetery. It is a private cemetery on private land and is therefore not accessible to the general public. The custom is now to have small grave markers put down as depicted above for Nathan Knorr and Frederick Franz.
Watchtower Farms cemetery
Very few of those buried at Wallkill have photographs on Find a Grave. However, you can still check names. Currently the site lists 164 graves. Be warned that this list is not complete, and is not error free. For example, it lists the grave of A H MacMillan as being at Wallkill, whereas the Watchtower for 1966, page 608, clearly shows that he was buried at Staten Island. The same would be true of Giovanni DeCecca who died in 1965. These two, also imprisoned together back in 1918, were probably among the last to be interred at Woodrow Road.
In conclusion, it is acknowledged that this article does not directly add much to our knowledge of Watch Tower history as such, but is designed to highlight a resource that the author has found extremely useful in recent years. The more who use it, the more it will grow, and the more useful it can be for future researchers.